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Richard Thompson's debut novel - action-driven plot .
on 14 June 2000
Richard Thompson's debut novel falls firmly into that favourite literary genre, the techno thriller. Mention techno thriller and one author springs to mind and when I tell you that Thompson's novel is based around the activities of a submarine you know he has his work cut out.
'Tiger Cruise' is the story of an American submarine, the USS Woodbridge, taking a two-day PR, or tiger cruise with members of the crew's family. The submarine finds itself immersed in an international crisis when a mid-Atlantic earthquake sends a series of tsunamis towards the East coast of the United States. At the same time in the Middle East, an Iraqi faction are delivering a genetically altered strain of Anthrax to a mini submarine that will travel to America, launching an attack that will decimate the country. With the US Navy crippled, the country's only hope lies with the Woodbridge and her depleted crew.
The book follows the tried and tested formula of a multi-strand plot converging for a climatic finale. The story is evenly divided between the USS Woodbridge, the Iraqi terrorists and Knox Jones a CIA operative whose suspicions are aroused after the murder of a United States inspector in Iraqi. The guy from Langley turns out to be the major character in the story and I would hazard a guess that he might reappear in future adventures (sound familiar?). Thompson has an appealing style of writing, combining the in-depth knowledge of Tom Clancy with the useful literary tool, of which Michael Crichton is a master, of employing his characters to explain technology to each other and, by default, the reader. For example; want to know the basis of marine seismology? Then after a couple of pages of dialogue between the scientists who discover the earthquake you'll be fully clue in.
The author is actually ex-navy so has brought a commanding knowledge of naval process to the book. His descriptions of life aboard the submarine are well observed with small details providing a high level of authenticity. Whilst Clancy is a master of research, Thompson's real-life credentials give a strong credibility to his technical narrative. The presence of the crew's family is handled sensibly, particularly where the Captain's young son is concerned. Alarm bells rang when he appeared and I was fearing a cringe factor of Spielberg proportions, however he is used in such a way as to not cause any grinding of teeth. Likewise, other civilians on the submarine demonstrate skills that prove useful and do not hinder the logic of the story.
The book is not without its faults. This is quite a basic story with Thompson sticking to an action-driven plot and avoiding large amounts of political commentary (not necessarily a bad thing). There is little character development beyond a few lines of background on the main players. Consequently the book lacks the complex feel you associate with your average techno-thriller, although coming in at a relatively short 280 pages means the story and action plotting are quite sufficient to hold the interest.